March Madness At Work: Employers Threaten To 'Throttle' Video Feeds

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Brian Prescott, The Breeze
Every year, there is the same debate about whether March Madness hurts office productivity. While some experts say the office pools and chatter around the NCAA's basketball tournament is a morale booster, just as many insist that it's a productivity drain. According to a survey by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, employees spend an average of three hours a day watching the basketball tournament during March Madness. CEO John Challenger estimates the goofing off costs employers $134 million in "lost" work.

But this year, March Madness' impact will be even more intense. CBS is enabling people to live-stream for a small fee all 67 games to more devices than ever -- including iPads and iPhones -- plus there will be game replays, video highlights and social alerts. One group of employees --namely, the IT workers -- is not pleased, fearing WiFi and office networks could slow to a crawl.

So this year, many IT departments plan to crack down. One out of three IT professionals say that they will be "banning March Madness video, throttling video feeds, or simply blocking content altogether," according to a survey by Modis. Overall, about half of the IT professionals surveyed said the company already blocks content that isn't work-related.

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"We hate to spoil the sports fun," Cindy Nash, chief information officer of Windstream, an IT company, notes in a company blog post, entitled, "Game On: Why Your IT Department Hates March Madness." But, she says, "adding high usage of streaming video for non-essential purposes during business hours" can put "quite a strain" on the network.

Of course, even the IT employees who said that their company will take a hard line this year will make exceptions. In the survey, 66 percent of the IT professionals said they would exempt the head of the company and 52 percent would give a pass to senior execs who wanted to live stream the games.

Still, even John Challenger acknowledges that March Madness games in the offices ultimately have little impact on offices' bottom line. "In the end, March Madness will have little if any effect on employers," he told ABC News. Sequestration and the looming budget cuts, he added, "is going to have a far bigger impact."

Are you planning to watch? And what impact do you think March Madness will have on your office?

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